Calgary

Alberta's gender-bending 'Buffalo Boy' sells bison painting to British Museum

A member of the Siksika First Nation with a campy alter ego has sold one of his contemporary paintings to the British Museum.

Indigenous artist Adrian Stimson's work acquired by museum’s extensive Blackfoot collection

Buffalo Boy is a key fixture in Adrian Stimson's performance art and a regular at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada. The character is constantly shifting identities — from Pow Wow dancer to shaman to gay cowboy. (Adrian Stimson )

An Alberta Indigenous artist with a campy alter ego has sold one of his contemporary paintings to the British Museum.

Adrian Stimson's Event II was acquired by the museum's extensive Blackfoot collection last year, but is not yet on display.

The work features bison — an animal hunted to near-extinction across the North American plains in the late 19th century — roaming freely on a snowy Prairie landscape, with a pumpjack in the backdrop.

British Museum purchases art from Siksika First Nation

CBC News Calgary

5 years ago
0:34
An Alberta Indigenous artist with a campy alter ego has sold one of his contemporary paintings to the British Museum. 0:34

"The slaughter of the bison had an incredible impact on my people. Changed our way of life forever," said Stimson, a member of the Siksika First Nation.

"It's storytelling of the history of the bison, current events of oil extraction and the conflict that creates with the people. So I think it's right for our times, so I am happy that they chose that particular piece," Stimson said.

The British Museum acquired Event II for £600 in 2015. The Adrian Stimson painting features two bison on a modern Prairie landscape. (Adrian Stimson )
Adrian Stimson recently moved his art studio from Saskatoon back to his childhood home on the Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Stimson recently moved from Saskatoon back to his southern Alberta ancestral home and is working on setting up a solar and wind-powered studio.

He calls the off-grid initiative a form of environmental "activism."  

"Oil extraction, potash extraction, even agriculture — has all impacted the landscape and our [Blackfoot] way of life."

Alter ego, "Buffalo Boy"

Stimson also uses his work to explore colonialism and the constructed stereotypes of Aboriginal peoples and cultures.

He's been commenting on those themes for years through a gender-bending, chameleon-like performance artist named "Buffalo Boy" — who has made numerous appearances at the Burning Man festival in Nevada.

Buffalo Boy is a key fixture in Adrian Stimson's performance art. The character is constantly shifting identities — from Pow Wow dancer to shaman to gay cowboy. (Adrian Stimson )

Event II is part of a three-painting collection. The two other artworks are owned privately, but one was recently gifted to the British Museum.

Stimson said he will travel to London, England in December to present the donated painting to the museum, tour their backroom archives and meet to discuss "future programming possibilities."

Corrections

  • In an earlier version of this story, we reported the painting was sold for $6,000 when it was actually £600.
    Dec 15, 2016 8:22 AM MT

With files from the CBC's Evelyne Asselin

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